Balancing Togetherness and Space in Intimate Relationships

Reviewed Oct 6, 2017

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Summary

  • Gauge your own needs for privacy/togetherness.
  • Be respectful of your partner’s needs. 
  • Develop a plan.
  • Adjust, as needed.

Is it possible to be too close to someone you love?

Yes, say marriage counselors and psychologists. It all comes down to the needs and preferences of the individuals involved.

While you are single, you may dream your perfect partner will be someone to spend all of your time with, a mate whose tastes, energy level, and interests always match your own. You may envision the two of you doing everything together, always enjoying every aspect of your combined lives. Dream on!

Even if it were possible to find such a person, it probably would not be a good choice, says author and marriage therapist Sharon Rivkin.

“You need a certain amount of individual space and quiet in order to tap into your true self,” she says.  “Also, if you feel you have to cater to or be nice to your partner all the time and put aside what you really want to do, you’ll feel resentful.”

The more things you do on your own, the more unique and fresh experiences you will have to bring back to the relationship.

What is normal?

We learn “rules” about privacy and personal space in childhood. They reflect the culture that existed within our original family. If bathrooms were sacrosanct, we learned to leave the door shut. If all family members were supposed to be together at dinnertime, we took that to be the norm. As an adult, you carry many such expectations with you as you decide how you want to live and share your life with another person.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to decisions about space and togetherness. It depends on how two people decide to honor each other’s wishes for privacy, within a common framework. What works for one couple may not work for another.

Achieving balance

To determine how much closeness or distance will work, ask yourself and your partner some of these questions:

1. Do I prefer to be with other people or alone?
2. If someone borrows, am I happy to share or do I feel like I have been used?
3. Do I like to interact with one person at a time or do I prefer groups?
4. Would I rather talk to someone, listen to that person, or read to myself?
5. Do I like to talk about my spouse to my friends?
6. Do I like it when my partner tells friends about me?
7. What limits do I want to set about talking to friends about relationships?

Once you know your limits, you can adjust accordingly. Sit down with your loved one to work out the details. Keep the negotiations loving and respectful.
 
By planning ahead, you should be able to head off misunderstandings.

Here are ways you can make two very different people happy:

  • If your partner needs more time alone than you do, arrange something to do one night a week, while your partner stays home.
  • If your partner wants to discuss the relationship a lot and you do not, agree on a certain amount of time to do this, then stick to it. You will honor your partner’s needs, as well as your own. 
  • If you like lots of company but your partner is uncomfortable in groups, find a way to accommodate both needs when you entertain. 

Differences do not have to be wedges between couples. A good relationship takes advantage of the differences—and strengths—of each partner.

One and one = many

Just as it is in a workplace, it is a good idea to divide the labor in a relationship between individuals. One person cooks well, the other excels at keeping track of financial details. One may be handy, the other creative. One is a nurturer, the other, assertive.

Each partner needs a chance to shine, but also an understanding of the other person’s contribution to the relationship. This helps a couple thrive on their differences, explains LeslieBeth Wish, psychologist and licensed clinical social worker.

Marriage therapists say too much closeness brings trouble in times of great stress. If partners are too dependent on each other, the relationship falters when one is not able to hold up his or her end.

Even in two-peas-in-a-pod relationships, the division of labor is rarely 50/50. One often calls the shots for both. Strong people often seek out agreeable and kind partners who are willing to go along with the program. 

“The danger of overly close relationships is that the less powerful partner can begin to feel suffocated, either by not having enough say or, ironically, by having too much responsibility for the other person,” explains Wish. “Problems arise when the strong one has a crisis in health, for example, and discovers that the other partner is not so effective. Having a permanent private in the emotional army can make the colonel feel very alone and exhausted. And, disappointed and disillusioned.” 

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Sharon Rivkin, MA, MFT, conflict resolution specialist and licensed marriage family therapist, Santa Rosa, CA; Tina B. Tessina, PhD, licensed psychotherapist and author, Long Beach, CA; LeslieBeth Wish, EdD, MSS, psychologist and licensed clinical social worker, Sarasota, FL

Summary

  • Gauge your own needs for privacy/togetherness.
  • Be respectful of your partner’s needs. 
  • Develop a plan.
  • Adjust, as needed.

Is it possible to be too close to someone you love?

Yes, say marriage counselors and psychologists. It all comes down to the needs and preferences of the individuals involved.

While you are single, you may dream your perfect partner will be someone to spend all of your time with, a mate whose tastes, energy level, and interests always match your own. You may envision the two of you doing everything together, always enjoying every aspect of your combined lives. Dream on!

Even if it were possible to find such a person, it probably would not be a good choice, says author and marriage therapist Sharon Rivkin.

“You need a certain amount of individual space and quiet in order to tap into your true self,” she says.  “Also, if you feel you have to cater to or be nice to your partner all the time and put aside what you really want to do, you’ll feel resentful.”

The more things you do on your own, the more unique and fresh experiences you will have to bring back to the relationship.

What is normal?

We learn “rules” about privacy and personal space in childhood. They reflect the culture that existed within our original family. If bathrooms were sacrosanct, we learned to leave the door shut. If all family members were supposed to be together at dinnertime, we took that to be the norm. As an adult, you carry many such expectations with you as you decide how you want to live and share your life with another person.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to decisions about space and togetherness. It depends on how two people decide to honor each other’s wishes for privacy, within a common framework. What works for one couple may not work for another.

Achieving balance

To determine how much closeness or distance will work, ask yourself and your partner some of these questions:

1. Do I prefer to be with other people or alone?
2. If someone borrows, am I happy to share or do I feel like I have been used?
3. Do I like to interact with one person at a time or do I prefer groups?
4. Would I rather talk to someone, listen to that person, or read to myself?
5. Do I like to talk about my spouse to my friends?
6. Do I like it when my partner tells friends about me?
7. What limits do I want to set about talking to friends about relationships?

Once you know your limits, you can adjust accordingly. Sit down with your loved one to work out the details. Keep the negotiations loving and respectful.
 
By planning ahead, you should be able to head off misunderstandings.

Here are ways you can make two very different people happy:

  • If your partner needs more time alone than you do, arrange something to do one night a week, while your partner stays home.
  • If your partner wants to discuss the relationship a lot and you do not, agree on a certain amount of time to do this, then stick to it. You will honor your partner’s needs, as well as your own. 
  • If you like lots of company but your partner is uncomfortable in groups, find a way to accommodate both needs when you entertain. 

Differences do not have to be wedges between couples. A good relationship takes advantage of the differences—and strengths—of each partner.

One and one = many

Just as it is in a workplace, it is a good idea to divide the labor in a relationship between individuals. One person cooks well, the other excels at keeping track of financial details. One may be handy, the other creative. One is a nurturer, the other, assertive.

Each partner needs a chance to shine, but also an understanding of the other person’s contribution to the relationship. This helps a couple thrive on their differences, explains LeslieBeth Wish, psychologist and licensed clinical social worker.

Marriage therapists say too much closeness brings trouble in times of great stress. If partners are too dependent on each other, the relationship falters when one is not able to hold up his or her end.

Even in two-peas-in-a-pod relationships, the division of labor is rarely 50/50. One often calls the shots for both. Strong people often seek out agreeable and kind partners who are willing to go along with the program. 

“The danger of overly close relationships is that the less powerful partner can begin to feel suffocated, either by not having enough say or, ironically, by having too much responsibility for the other person,” explains Wish. “Problems arise when the strong one has a crisis in health, for example, and discovers that the other partner is not so effective. Having a permanent private in the emotional army can make the colonel feel very alone and exhausted. And, disappointed and disillusioned.” 

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Sharon Rivkin, MA, MFT, conflict resolution specialist and licensed marriage family therapist, Santa Rosa, CA; Tina B. Tessina, PhD, licensed psychotherapist and author, Long Beach, CA; LeslieBeth Wish, EdD, MSS, psychologist and licensed clinical social worker, Sarasota, FL

Summary

  • Gauge your own needs for privacy/togetherness.
  • Be respectful of your partner’s needs. 
  • Develop a plan.
  • Adjust, as needed.

Is it possible to be too close to someone you love?

Yes, say marriage counselors and psychologists. It all comes down to the needs and preferences of the individuals involved.

While you are single, you may dream your perfect partner will be someone to spend all of your time with, a mate whose tastes, energy level, and interests always match your own. You may envision the two of you doing everything together, always enjoying every aspect of your combined lives. Dream on!

Even if it were possible to find such a person, it probably would not be a good choice, says author and marriage therapist Sharon Rivkin.

“You need a certain amount of individual space and quiet in order to tap into your true self,” she says.  “Also, if you feel you have to cater to or be nice to your partner all the time and put aside what you really want to do, you’ll feel resentful.”

The more things you do on your own, the more unique and fresh experiences you will have to bring back to the relationship.

What is normal?

We learn “rules” about privacy and personal space in childhood. They reflect the culture that existed within our original family. If bathrooms were sacrosanct, we learned to leave the door shut. If all family members were supposed to be together at dinnertime, we took that to be the norm. As an adult, you carry many such expectations with you as you decide how you want to live and share your life with another person.

There is no right or wrong when it comes to decisions about space and togetherness. It depends on how two people decide to honor each other’s wishes for privacy, within a common framework. What works for one couple may not work for another.

Achieving balance

To determine how much closeness or distance will work, ask yourself and your partner some of these questions:

1. Do I prefer to be with other people or alone?
2. If someone borrows, am I happy to share or do I feel like I have been used?
3. Do I like to interact with one person at a time or do I prefer groups?
4. Would I rather talk to someone, listen to that person, or read to myself?
5. Do I like to talk about my spouse to my friends?
6. Do I like it when my partner tells friends about me?
7. What limits do I want to set about talking to friends about relationships?

Once you know your limits, you can adjust accordingly. Sit down with your loved one to work out the details. Keep the negotiations loving and respectful.
 
By planning ahead, you should be able to head off misunderstandings.

Here are ways you can make two very different people happy:

  • If your partner needs more time alone than you do, arrange something to do one night a week, while your partner stays home.
  • If your partner wants to discuss the relationship a lot and you do not, agree on a certain amount of time to do this, then stick to it. You will honor your partner’s needs, as well as your own. 
  • If you like lots of company but your partner is uncomfortable in groups, find a way to accommodate both needs when you entertain. 

Differences do not have to be wedges between couples. A good relationship takes advantage of the differences—and strengths—of each partner.

One and one = many

Just as it is in a workplace, it is a good idea to divide the labor in a relationship between individuals. One person cooks well, the other excels at keeping track of financial details. One may be handy, the other creative. One is a nurturer, the other, assertive.

Each partner needs a chance to shine, but also an understanding of the other person’s contribution to the relationship. This helps a couple thrive on their differences, explains LeslieBeth Wish, psychologist and licensed clinical social worker.

Marriage therapists say too much closeness brings trouble in times of great stress. If partners are too dependent on each other, the relationship falters when one is not able to hold up his or her end.

Even in two-peas-in-a-pod relationships, the division of labor is rarely 50/50. One often calls the shots for both. Strong people often seek out agreeable and kind partners who are willing to go along with the program. 

“The danger of overly close relationships is that the less powerful partner can begin to feel suffocated, either by not having enough say or, ironically, by having too much responsibility for the other person,” explains Wish. “Problems arise when the strong one has a crisis in health, for example, and discovers that the other partner is not so effective. Having a permanent private in the emotional army can make the colonel feel very alone and exhausted. And, disappointed and disillusioned.” 

By Paula Hartman Cohen
Source: Sharon Rivkin, MA, MFT, conflict resolution specialist and licensed marriage family therapist, Santa Rosa, CA; Tina B. Tessina, PhD, licensed psychotherapist and author, Long Beach, CA; LeslieBeth Wish, EdD, MSS, psychologist and licensed clinical social worker, Sarasota, FL

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